Outside my bedroom and study I've got a low dry wall which has become home to about twenty ant-lions, and I'm suddenly filled with a sense of zeal which makes me want to know all about these strange and wonderful animals, these animals which I know are there, within half a metre of where I'm typing this, and which I've never seen.
The wall is almost 12 foot long, 10” wide and two foot high: It's an ordinary wall up to 19”, but after that it stops being ordinary, for it splits into two miniature 1½ inch walls. No ordinary wall is this, for when it was made I had them build it hollow, for really it's two walls, each being 1½ inches thick, carefully built up with one-inch bricks and fine cement. It has fine metal bars running inside between the mini-bricks to prevent cracking, and the entire cage is encased in plaster.
To start with we filled the cavity with soil, and planted flowering plants in the trough, but in time we forgot to maintain them, or let them die back, and the dry wall went over to the hands of good healthy neglect. It was then that the ant-lions must have moved in, for one morning I saw a few shapes of inverted cones, smooth conical holes with very smooth sand up the sides. It reminded me of watching an egg-timer, or of seeing sand in an hour glass falling in, the soft sift moving down, to be swallowed away at the centre.
“If you get an ant or small bug to move over the edge, it will lose its foot-hold and the Creature will suddenly rise up, grab the ant and pull it down into the hole” said a child to me by way of explanation. I was glad to be told, glad to hear what I already knew.
Something within me wants to travel over to a net-point and Google all about these fascinating animals; and yet at a deeper level I want to do no such thing: I want to have the child's sense of wonder and find out for myself. And yet I'm reluctant to go dig it out and disturb the miniature Lion. How to proceed? Perhaps there is a way: I'll find some bugs and try to persuade them to walk over the precipice. I'll pass the Death Sentence on one and hand it over to the Executioner, then perhaps I'll catch a glimpse of the Creature. Playing the part of Judge is what I'll do next.